MOSCOW, August 7 (RAPSI) - Former NSA contractor and CIA employee Edward Snowden has been granted a Russian residence permit for three years, his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena announced on Thursday at a news conference in Moscow.

“This is not political asylum but temporary residence in Russia. The decision was made to grant him a residence permit. It could be extended by another three years,” Kucherena said.

He added that “political asylum would require a presidential decree, which is a completely different procedure.”

The attorney said that Snowden could eventually apply for Russian citizenship after living in the country for five years.

“According to the standard procedure, a foreigner who obtained a residence permit can of course apply for citizenship after five years. If an individual lives in Russia for five years and is law abiding, he or she can eventually apply for citizenship,” Kucherena said.

Whether Snowden plans to become a Russian citizen, he did not say.

In the summer of 2013, Edward Snowden, a computer specialist and former contractor for the US National Security Agency, leaked classified evidence of US government surveillance programs to The Washington Post and The Guardian.

He then fled to Hong Kong. On June 14, 2013, US authorities charged Snowden under three articles, each of them stipulating punishment of up to 10 years in prison. Two of the charges were brought under the 1917 Espionage Act.

Snowden was in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport from June 23 to August 1, when he was granted temporary asylum. He is now living at an undisclosed location in Russia.